Exactly one week after the Hokies preserved control over their own fate in the ACC Coastal Division title race, with a win against Maryland, the squad faces off against Miami (FL) with aim to do the same thing once again. Before diving into this week's game preview, I'd like to call attention to two awards to individuals on the Hokie football team. Kicker Dustin Keys earned the Groza "Star of the Week" by further (re)setting the school record of consecutive field goals to 17 and by successfully kicking 17 of 18 on the season thus far. Furthermore, running back Darren Evans' school record setting 253 yard rushing game during last week's contest has earned him the ACC Offensive Back of the Week. Congratulations Darren and Dustin!
Since the arrival of Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Miami's program has steadily declined. They've mounted some key victories, one in particular against Virginia Tech in 2005 back when Marcus Vick quarterbacked for the Hokies. Aside from a handful of big wins, however, the program has seemed to linger in a perpetual state of rebuilding. The last time the Hurricanes appeared in the BCS bowl hunt dates back to their first season of the ACC in 2004 when Brock Berlin quarterbacked the team to contending to win the ACC. (As you may remember, quarterback Bryan Randall, however, led the Hokies to triumphing the ACC that season with a last regular season game win over the Hurricanes.) Don't get me wrong. While Miami has struggled over the past seasons, they don't send a hapless squad of players out onto the playing field. On any given Saturday (or Thursday night), they could very well pull off a major upset against a ranked team or our beloved Hokies.
So what, in more detail, do the Hokies face on Thursday night? Quarterback Robert Marve has thrown for 920 yards in the 2008 season, and that makes for an impressive number for a Freshman quarterback. Virginia Tech's quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon have thrown for a comparable number in 1059 yards, but that's a combined figure to give you a comparison. Oddly enough, Marve's passing yardage per game has excelled more so against difficult opponents than against not so difficult ones. For example, he threw for 135, 122, and 153 yards against North Carolina, Florida State, and Wake Forest respectively, but he only threw for 74 and 64 yards against UCF and Duke respectively. That indicates that Marve can elevate his level of play when he needs, and Virginia Tech presents one of the more formidable opponents on Miami's 2008 schedule.
On whom does Marve relay for receiving for all those passing yards? He primarily looks to Aldarius Johnson at wide receiver, who has caught for 238 yards on the season so far. Running back Graig Cooper has the second highest yards in reception (yes, reception) at 75 yards on the season. Cooper has amassed 634 yards in rushing on the season so far, that's kinda in the neighborhood of the Hokies' Darren Evans. Javarris James plays the part of the number two running back with 159 yards. Miami's total offense ranks 3rd in the ACC with a total of 1688 passing yards and 1211 rushing yards. Virginia Tech's offense ranks 6th with 1087 passing yards and 1553 rushing yards, to give you a familiar point of reference.
Miami's defense, however, leaves a little more for a Miami fan to desire. Their squad ranks 9th in the ACC. I'm not sure exactly how much stock I can put into that stat, however, because that same stat ranks the Hokie defensive squad as 8th in the conference. I know Virginia Tech defensive coordinate Bud Foster has a number of inexperienced players on his squad, but I don't think the numbers that comprise that stat truly represent their abilities. I'd probably put them at 4th or 5th in the conference given what I've observed this year. But hey, I can't claim I'm not biased.
So what's the key to adding another notch in the W-column for Virginia Tech? Miami seems to have a fairly developed offense, but it seems to hinge primarily on their number one's at the passing game and rushing game. Once you get past them on the depth chart, the number two and number three players don't contribute so much to the offense produced by the team. If the Hokie defense can shut down Miami's stars, they'll probably contain the Miami offense. If Marve successfully gets the ball in the hands of Cooper and Johnson routinely, Miami will put up some big points.
Reversing each team on each side of the ball, as the state I mentioned above indicates, the Miami defense has struggled this year, but so too has the Hokie offense. Given Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon's performance last week and Tyrod Taylor recovering from a high ankle sprain, a quarterback who's greatest asset is his mobility, I expect that Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer will start Glennon at the helm this week. However, tight end Greg Boone taking a few snaps at quarterback last week went well enough that it would surprise me not to see him taking a couple of snaps again this week. Did you know he can throw the ball 70 yards while standing still, as in without a running start to gain forward momentum? Overall, I expect a close game well into the third quarter, and I'd say the chances are 50%-50% that the winning team does so by only one possession.
Virginia Tech Hokies 6-3, 3-2 ACC vs. Miami Hurricanes 6-3, 3-2 ACC
Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008, Kickoff: 7:45 PM
Dolphin Stadium (74,916), Miami Gardens, Fla.
Series vs. UM: UM leads, 16-9
Series Streak: VT, two
Let's Go Hokies!
 hokiesports.com: Keys named Groza "Star of the Week"
 hokiesports.com: Evans tabbed ACC Offensive Back of the Week
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